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Antiabortion Activist Admits Killing Doctor Near Buffalo

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

An antiabortion activist charged with killing Dr. Barnett A. Slepian four years ago admitted the sniper slaying but said he only wanted to wound the obstetrician to vent his anger.

“The truth is not that I regret shooting Dr. Slepian. I regret that he died,” James C. Kopp said in a jailhouse interview published Wednesday in the Buffalo News. “I aimed at his shoulder. The bullet took a crazy ricochet, and that’s what killed him.”

Kopp said that he had planned the attack for a year and had repeatedly scouted the 52-year-old physician’s suburban neighborhood near Buffalo, N.Y., before firing the single rifle shot that killed Slepian in his kitchen on Oct. 23, 1998.

Kopp, 47, who was on the FBI’s most wanted list until his capture in France in March 2001, said he picked Slepian’s name out of a telephone book that listed doctors performing abortions.

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He told the newspaper that before selecting Slepian he scouted the homes of about six other doctors. A key factor in his decision was that Slepian’s home had a rear window facing woods.

Kopp is scheduled to go to trial in February on charges of second-degree murder.

He told the two Buffalo News reporters who interviewed him with his lawyer present that he wanted to confess because his supporters wanted to know his reasons for the shooting.

“The only thing that would be worse, to me, would be to do nothing and allow abortions to continue,” he said.

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“One of my goals was to keep Dr. Slepian alive, and I failed in that goal.”

Bruce A. Barket, who is defending Kopp, said that his client issued the message he wanted to and that he would seek to prove during the trial that Kopp didn’t intend to kill the doctor.

A key piece of evidence at the trial is expected to be DNA from a toothbrush Kopp used months before the shooting and a hair found at the crime scene.

Witnesses are expected to testify that Kopp’s car was seen in Slepian’s neighborhood and that he had a map with directions to the pawn shop in Tennessee where the rifle was purchased.

Pro- and antiabortion rights groups condemned Kopp’s confession.

Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, labeled him a “terrorist” who was attempting to sway the media.

The Rev. Flip Benham, director of Operation Save America, said that Kopp had “betrayed the pro-life movement.”


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